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Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Tails

Once upon a Halloween season, many, many years ago (13 to be exact), I found myself in a bit of a pickle.  At my workplace, which had many unique and vibrant and wonderfully distinct personalities, there was a lady who was a dog person.  One of her favorite charities was the Animal Cancer Therapies Society -- a charity to pay for chemo for pets whose owners could not afford to.  How could one not support that.  Knowing that I had two cats, she approached me to participate in their latest fundraiser -- a Halloween costume contest for pets.  We had a supportive group of colleagues, we would have all gone anyway, but if I brought my pets in costume for a $10 entry fee each, it would be even more helpful, and then my little beauties would also be able to be adored by the whole crowd.  It was a good sell.

However, this was before pet costumes were readily available in stores.  I have great ideas, but no execution when it comes to crafts.  Most of my elementary school projects never made the fridge at home, and even at a young age I was always embarrassed to hand over whatever lump or floppy over adorned art project I had dreamed up and massacred for Mother's Day or Father's Day.  I am just not crafty with anything other than words.

My coworker Shirley, on the other hand, is the craftiest person I have ever known, and she volunteered to help with the Halloween cat costume project.  She said she would make one and walk me through the construction of the other, and helped me pick what to make.  JJ, my large, fluffy, black boy cat who likes to hide, I decided to make him into a Polar Bear.  When deciding what to do with Lexi, my fluffy tabby girl who was a diva from kittenhood, I decided to make her Jeannie (you know, from the TV series "I Dream of Jeannie.")  Of course part of that decision was because in the 3rd grade one of my friends got to be Jeannie and it was the coolest costume I had ever seen, and I was just projecting my own failed Halloween aspirations onto poor Lexi now that I had a little girl of my own....cat or not, she was going to get to be Jeannie the Genie.

In no time flat Shirley had whipped up a fluffy white polar bear suit for JJ, with a little stub tail, and elastics to hold the white paws over his black paws -- equipped with polar bear claws, and a little polar bear mask that sat on top of his head.  It took me 2 weeks of lunch hours to hand sew a little red satin skirt with gold trim and a pink sheer layer (because she wasn't wearing bloomers or a vest no matter how hard I tried), but I did it.  The first and only sewing project I would ever do.  I also made the matching hat and veil, also which she was having no part of.  We were ready.

We never made it to the show though...getting 2 anti social cats into costumes and a car and onto a stage with a bunch of dogs and an audience was a futile pipe dream.  It was a nice night, but we never made the stage.  I decided that after all that work, I was going to get a picture at least.  This lead me down the road of true cat lady -- I was so determined to document all the hard work I booked a sitting with a professional photographer.

If you thought the cat costume contest was a lost cause, the trip to the photographer went even worse.  I lost a lot of blood that day, the photographer probably needed therapy, and in the end over a package of bandaids and a tube of polysporin he suggested we should complete the sitting at my house on another day...aka he kicked us out.  True to his word, he did come over and get the shots, and in the end I have beautiful pictures of the two little bad cats who would become such a big part of my life for almost two decades.  Here they are.



Lexi never let me put the costume on her again.  JJ on the other hand, loved his polar bear suit, and some days I used to just put it on him because it made him happy -- her seriously pranced around with pride.  To be fair, he also used to flip a cat bed over onto his head and slide around the house with his head covered thinking he was invisible.  Kinda like hidey spider.

 
Happy Halloween.  Fortunately my sister is more craftier than I.
 
My sister carved these, for JJ, Lexi, and Jaycena

pumpkin row at my sisters...some festive, representing joy, music, and her MYC, and in tribute to those lost too soon
 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lost

Sorry for the quiet this past week.  My fuzzy little best friend passed away and all of my time and energy this last week was spent showing her she was loved and treasured.  I may be silent for a few days while I come to terms with the awful silence that comes with the absence of a huge lion in a tiny body that ruled my domain for nearly 18 years.
 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Our Canada

The light that crept into my room this morning was a surreal orange glow, lighting the base of low lying eastern clouds with a metallic golden hue, while the western skies were still black with light.  I don't normally photograph sunrises, as the handful I have ever seen were only because I was still awake, and those were many, many years ago.  I left my warm bed and walked out to the crisp, pre 7am air and took a snapshot.  I did it consciously because of two men who could not, two men who will never again have the opportunity as I do now.


 
I refer, of course, to Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo.  I set my camera down and watched the skies turn from orange to red before lightening into day.  "At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them," I thought intrinsically.

I listened today not so much to the news, but more to social media, individuals, even a radio talk show.  I spent some time in quiet reflection.  And through the day began to make more sense of my own thoughts, and they did go through many phases.  My initial reaction was not shock, it was not horror, or fear.  The world is no longer surprised at the lack of humanity or cowardice of terrorists.  I was sad for the senseless loss of life of these two men, unarmed.  I felt grief, though I did not know them.  I felt disgust at the parties responsible, disgust at their characters --  men who were disloyal to their country, shamed their families, men who disrespected the principles in place in this country that nurtured them with freedom of speech, religion, association, movement, and choice and provided them with education, healthcare, and infrastructure.  I felt anger that people on a watchlist had been able to progress to the point of harming others.  I did not feel sorry that the men behind this were dead.  And then, I felt a little ashamed of those last two reactions.  These two men, though their acts are reprehensible beyond words, were Canadian citizens.  They belonged to our nation in life, they belong to this nation in death, and we will own their story as well.

As the day went on I heard many important view points.  One friend ardently opposed any changes in reaction to these events as doing so would be an affront on the principles of our democracy.  I thought carefully, and respectfully realized that he is right.  Another friend made minor changes to the security level in information on social media, and he too is right.  Sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers reported for work to applause and a standing ovation today, and pride swelled in all of our hearts.  The Pittsburgh Penguins organization sang the Canadian anthem in their arena, and people across Canada felt the embrace and support of an old friend and neighbour.  The mother of the shooter said "we are sorry."  That will never be enough, but it is important she said it.  It was the right thing to do.  It took courage and integrity for her to face the world media today and apologize, but she did so in another example of Canadian values.  A photograph of a retired veteran standing at the cenotaph today brought a tears.  In fact, over 300 cenotaphs had veterans stand guard today.  I was touched by the symbolic gesture.  I felt proud of our veterans.  Proud of our nation.

And as the day wore on, I think I and many others, became more aware of just who we are as Canadians.  We believe in life without fear or oppression.  We believe in honour and integrity.  This is our identity, this is who we are.  I believe in the courage and the grace of our citizens.  I support our military who volunteer for service because it calls them.  And I know this -- for whatever the intent of these attacks was, their result was clear.  They have inspired even more patriotism, more national pride, more empathy, more resolve.  If the intent was to cause fear or hatred, then those involved made a serious miscalculation of who Canadians are...because it is not hatred that results from these heinous acts, but rather a affirmation of our identity and strength, and an overwhelming outpouring of love.

My heart breaks for the families of Vincent Patrice and Nathan Cirillo, may the support of a nation provide some comfort in their unimaginable grief.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Narcissist Checklist

Narcissism.  We have all heard the term thrown around.  We all have a vague understanding that it's reserved for seriously self centered and egotistic people.  But it was one of those quirky little facebook articles that really got me thinking more seriously about it.  I think it was something like 'why people like narcissists,' or something along that nature.  The premise of the article was addressing an age old question (not the chicken and the egg, the next generation age old question) "why do nice girls go for jerks?"  Narcissists, the article theorizes, pathologically require people to love and adore them, and therefore have spent a lot of time and energy getting good at faking whatever it takes to be so loved and adored.  They are romantic con-men (or con-women), sincerely wanting affection and attention...even if they achieve it through a disingenuous projection of characteristics known to be desirable.  Well, I thought, thank goodness don't have to worry about that, and put it out of my mind.

However, today it dawned on me.  I have been in a relationship with a narcissist.  For 17+ years.   Meet my cat, the fuzzy little narcissist called Lexi.



Let me explain.  Here is a list of characteristics and behaviors associated with narcissism.  Feel free to play along and see if you have someone, or something, in your life that matches up.

1.  Expects to be recognized as superior and special.  Lexi is a cat, this goes without saying, check.
2.  Expects constant attention and admiration.  Uhhhh, no need to explain, check.
3.  Is arrogant in attitudes and expectations.  Again, cat, check.
4.  Has expectations of special treatment that are unrealistic.  Let's see, today she meowed incessantly to go outside, then stood at my car and meowed at the top of her lungs until I opened the car door.  Why?  She decided that she wanted to have a nap.  Inside of my car.  Unrealistic expectations check.  As an aside, should we even ponder that fact that the cat, sitting around inside, deducted a plan inside her fuzzy little head about what she wanted to do and how she was going to manipulate this bizarre request, and succeeded, as always through prolonged vocal torment of her owner-victim, me.  Narcissists are very smart (point 5 check) and adept at manipulation (point 6 check).
7.  Is preoccupied with thoughts of great power, success, intelligence.  To this I can also tell numerous stories of being outwitted by a 4 pound fuzzball.  For example, her first escape from the apartment, as a palm sized fluffball, where she headed directly to the property manager of the pet-free property and climbed his leg, facilitating our move to a bigger apartment, which I am sure was the premeditated reason for her escape.  The next few escapes were progressive in their complexity, advancing to the point where the cat could walk up to a screen door, nudge a security stick out of the way soundlessly, put her paw on the screen, extend her claws to give a grip, and move her arm to slide the door open before bounding towards freedom.  The cat is beyond intelligent.  Over the years, she has also been training me to suit her preferences.  I no longer try to close the bathroom door, use the computer keyboard unimpeded, or attempt to watch television or read a book with the expectation of an unobstructed view.  As for thoughts of power, she has recently been very keen on vehicles, as mentioned, and this Bobcat all terrain vehicle seems to be one of her newest objects of fascination.  Lord know what would happen if she had opposable thumbs.


But the real problem with narcissists is this.  Despite their power hungry, self centered, demanding, manipulative ways, you adore them because they know what you need too.  They enjoy seeing you happy, because the ability to make you happy is a success, it feeds their ego.  There is a symbiosis in relationships with narcissists, and I can't lie....I love mine to pieces.  I could go on, but the fuzzy narcissist has just gently inserted 2 claws into my hip.  You see, she is too old to jump up and obstruct the keyboard on her own, so I have to help her.  Why would I do that?  Because it makes her happy, and that makes me happy.  Maybe we are both narcissists....hmmmmm.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Getting my Ducks in a Row

I have been hanging around Saskatchewan for a bit now, getting used to the old roads and the scenery again.  I seem to find place after place to pull over and take a photo of something that is striking to me.  There are endless pool of water along the roads....old dugouts, sloughs, overruns.  I wonder what happened to this tree, for example, to make it grow like that.  Wind?  Lightning? 

 

 
It seems like I have spent a lot of time driving.  I got quite used to my scooter day trips, and so it seems I am now in the habit of pulling off to the side of the road to snap photos in my car rather frequently.  This little watering hole was just to pretty to pass by.
 

I also have a lot of time to think while driving.  Driving has always been one of those relaxing times to get my thoughts in order.  I have been asked a few questions by pretty much everyone when I meet up with them again for the first time.  Why did you leave Bermuda?  What next?  Where are you going to live?  Where are you working and when?  What do you do until then?  The more I answer the questions, the less certain I seem of the answers.  I did have a plan, I really did.  I was only going to spend 2 months in Saskatchewan, and that has now stretched into almost 3, which really is not a bad thing.  I am getting rested.  Reading books.  Watching TV series.  Visiting.  Driving.  Learning a whole lot about the farm that I left 22 years ago  This is the longest I have ever been around since I left for University.  So it is a good thing.  It's just that the carefully laid plan got sidetracked by powers beyond my control, and that leaves me a bit in limbo. 
 

International moves can be complicated...add in some paperwork glitches from 2 of the 3 countries involved, and it gets exponentially complicated.  I am not where I planned to be.  I am no longer certain where I am going to end up or when.  I won't get into the specifics of the complications this dislocation (which is what I call it because the idea of simple relocation perished 6 weeks ago), but there are rules and regulations about every day things you take for granted -- cell phone, credit card, bank accounts, insurance, health care.  Try setting all of that up without a local fixed address or a job and in a country that you are not resident...which for me includes where I was, where I planned to be, and where I currently am.  There are rules and regulations about these things, in each place, and I have become well enough versed in them to accept that I am in limbo.  This is frustrating.  Discussing it and re-explaining it is frustrating-er....so forgive me if I refuse to go there in conversation.  But I have given it lots of thought on these long drives.  And while taking pictures of this little watering hole, I saw some ducks.  Those of you who know me well (or have just read "Men Who Won't Wash Ducks") know I have a thing for ducks.  It reminded me of the old adage about getting one's ducks in a row.
 
 
In the scattered way that I have been ambling through both thoughts and life these days, I moved to a different watering hole and got distracted by a couple of geese who were also watching ducks.  Maybe they needed to get their ducks in a row too. 
 

To their credit, the geese had done it.  Technically they must have given up on organizing their ducks and stuck to their own kind, but when I gazed out a little further into this watering hole, I saw that these 2 geese had all of their other geese lined up in a row.  If the geese can do it, I can do it.

 
 
Although right now my unruly ducks are not in any sort of row at all.  If the organization of my life can be compared to how straight a row one's ducks are in, mine looks a little like this.  There is a plan in place for my ducks, I swear. The ducks are just not cooperating.
 

 
I am sure it will fall into place soon.  Until then, I will just enjoy the randomness of it all!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Storm


August 31st dawned a gorgeous summer day.
 



But with little warning dark clouds congealed from the North and crept slowly south towards us.  The picture above was taken facing due South....and while standing in the same place this photo is facing due East showing the transition from beautiful day to not so much.


The old John Deere has weathered many a storm, and it sat nonchalantly on its steel wheels, braced for another one.  Built tough indeed.


Ominous clouds were boiling down from the sky.  I was of course, strangely drawn to them.  It's probably a good thing I wasn't born in Kansas (or anywhere in tornado alley).
 

 
It seems that my youngest niece shares the same fascination.  Here she is walking her little dog and watching the same storm brew that I was....on the same path through the field that I wandered at her  age as well.

 

 
As the clouds began go rumble and the wind picked up, there was a little lightning as well.
 


That seemed to be a good time to follow the niece and the dog back to the house.  Besides, the raindrops were starting to hit the lens.  What I didn't realize at the time was that this storm was going to be the death toll for some of the fields...the 3rd hailstorm of the year, and the one that hit the mustard crops at the critical time when they were mature and ready for harvest....the hail would beat the kernels out of the pods on the plant and leave a field of standing, empty plants.

 
 
But at the time I didn't know that, and enjoyed watching the storm...and the double rainbow that formed afterwards.
 

And of course I loved the opportunity to get this shot.  My dad did his mechanic training in a John Deere dealership when he was younger, so he has always had a soft spot for John Deere equipment.  So I was able to show him this picture and see "See, John Deere even farts rainbows."  It made him smile at least.



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Where Macaroni Comes From

As I said, the harvest was rolling in nicely.  There had been some hail damage due to earlier storms, but overall there were some still some moderately optimistic farmers about (farmers never get fully optimistic, moderately optimistic is as good as it gets).  The peas had suffered some loss to hail damage but were in.  The lentils had been a but flattened by heavy rains but with a steady eye and hand in the combine they were rolling in nicely too.
 
Sometimes my non-farm friends ask questions about how stuff gets to where, so here is a picture that illustrates it nicely.  The combine picks up the grain and stores it in the hopper, which when full gets dumped into a truck, which then drives it to a storage bin (or to a buyer) via a long loader that scoops the grain from below the trailer and drops it through the hole in the top of the bin.  Now normally the combine is in the field, the truck comes to the combine...but this picture captures the combine following the already full semi back to the yard as the last lentil had been harvested from that field. This would make more sense with a sharpee, arrows, and a few letter wouldn't it?
 


The lentils were done, and so it was off to the next crop -- durum.  And what do we use durum for?  Pasta mostly!  Most of the durum in Canada ends up in Italy...they do some bread making with it too, but durum has a low gluten content so it is normally mixed with other grains if used in North American breads.  So if you ever wondered where your Mac and Cheese comes from, think Canadian farmers!

This is where your macaroni comes from
Here's what durum looks like at a distance.  I caught this moment of peaceful skies and gentle winds sweeping along the rolling hills, making slow moving waves of durum.


And as sun set, the semi's and loaders were poised for another busy tomorrow.


I am sure there is some old sailor warning about when skies are just a little to calm, a little too bright.  That's what I saw on this evening, exceptionally crisp skies, with thin ribbons of clouds.

Combine lined up and ready to go the next morning
It looked like we would have clear weather and still long days to complete the harvest.  I was just smitten by the way the skies were lighting up as the sky transitioned to dusk. And then I made the non-farmer mistake of being fully optimistic that it would be smooth sailing this harvest.
 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

That Sunny Saskatchewan Disposition


I always say people from Saskatchewan are a lot like me -- nice, a little crazy, but nice.   Open prairies and open book people.  You know your neighbours, help out when needed, drop in unannounced for coffee, and let yourself in the open door.  I remember one year I came home for Christmas holidays.  I slept late while everyone else had left to go somewhere else, and wandered into the kitchen in my pajamas and glasses, and was greeted by a guy I'd never seen before sitting at the table drinking a cup of coffee he'd made himself.  "Hi.  Who are you?" he said to me.  "I used to live here," I said, "who might you be?" as I headed to the coffee pot myself. "I'm the John Deere dealer," he said as we eyed each other up skeptically behind coffee cups, wondering which of us was the true impostor.  Stuff like that just happens around here.
 
Maybe the people take their cue from the skies...those are nice and open too.  I captured this sunset while we were combining the lentils, and couldn't believe how big the sun was on the horizon.  I hadn't seen a sunset like that in years.
 


Ralph Waldo Emerson said "Nature always wears the colors of the spirit."  Philosophically then, this is the spirit of Saskatchewan.  Of course, Regina residents will swear Saskatchewan's spirit color is green (the color of our CFL football team), but nature does not lie, and this sunset certainly made me feel soulful.



A lone truck rides out of, rather than into, the sunset

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cute Road Hazards

Driving in Saskatchewan has it's pros and cons.  For one thing, I have been pleasantly surprised at how much life there is along the road in Saskatchewan.  Usually my hands and attention are required for driving, and so I have not been able to get photos of all the things I have seen.  This includes many deer, a very very large fox, a coyote, and a skunk.  Unfortunately, there is also a lot of roadkill.  The front of my car is a sad composite of the remains on countless large dragonflies (never seen so many in my life), grasshoppers, and little yellow butterflies.  At least I have managed to avoid birds and mammals so far.  However, I have seen the remains of a deer, many many skunks (they must be having a good year to have such number), too many birds, a bunny, gophers, voles, and even a couple of snakes squashed on the road.  Yup.  Snakes.  Not scary Crocodile Dundee Australia snakes, but little snakes.
 
So while driving past a pretty little pond of water, I decided to get a picture of it, since it was so still and calm, reflections of little fenceposts on the water.  When I parked my car and got out, I was surprised at the racket -- this serene little spot was bustling with noise and activity...hundreds and hundreds of happy chattering birds.  I could almost hear the voice of  David Attenborough from BBC's Planet Earth..."But the Prairies are teeeeming with lif-fe!" Click the video below to hear what this surprisingly noisy little watering hole is like.
 

video
 
On another day, near the same road, I saw 3 antelope in the field.  This stretch of road is long, and has very low levels of traffic, so I decided to pull over to the side and snap a few photos.
 


The interesting thing about these antelope, all cute and fuzzy in their prairie home, is that they aren't actually antelope at all.  I grew up with these "antelope," but apparently that's just what we locals call them, and most antelope species are actually in Africa, and these little guys are actually classified as Pronghorn.  Who knew?


This last photo shows two major road hazards.   Obviously, the pronghorn crossing the road is the first hazard.  The second hazard is the road itself.  Notice the giant pothole that even the surefooted pronghorn could trip in?  The uneven pavement?  The lack of shoulders on the road.  Welcome to rural Saskatchewan, where your tax dollars leave and apparently never return to.  I won't mention the third hazard...me, taking pictures.  Don't worry, the car was pulled over onto the shoulder of the road and me and the Pronghorn(s), whatever the plural may be, all made it safely to our destinations.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Lentil Soup

Lentils have been part of the human diet since the Neolithic times....about 13,000 years.  But they were not being grown in my part of Saskatchewan until 10 or so years ago.  We used to focus more on wheat, barley, flax, durum when I was a child, but while I have been away there has been a shift in farming, and mustard, peas, and lentils are part of our farm now as well.  Lentils, as you may have heard, are very high in protein, and a staple food in parts of the Eastern Hemisphere.  Around here, we grow 'em, but outside of lentil soup I don't think they have ever showed up on a dinner plate around here.  But since we are growing them, I guess we should think about why people are buying them.  Lentils are about 30% protein -- very nutritious, a good choice if you are a vegetarian, bodybuilder, in a developing country, or just health conscious.  Lentils have a low glycemic index, which makes them great choice for diabetics as well as those looking for good options to held shed a few pounds.  They are rich in iron, minerals, Vitamin B1, folate for you mom's to be.  Yummy goodness really.  And if you are a farmer, you also like lentils because they do something really nice for you too -- they lay down lots of nitrogen to help your crop the following year.
 
So, I spent a day in the field watching the lentils be harvested.   The picture below shows my dad combining some up.  For me it was interesting to see this -- a change from tall golden wheat to a shorter, flatter, browner crop of lentils.
 

This next picture is taken from on top of the combine (I suppose that is rather obvious), but the intent is to show the density of the crop next to the bare area that has just been cut, and how short it is.


My brother George was home on this day as well, and so his combine was working the same field.  I just took a quick snapshot of him from the cab of dad's combine.


So basically, the combine cuts and separates the lentils and holds them in a tank on combine called the hopper.  When it's full, you "deploy the auger" (said in best Captain Kirk voice)...actually you swing it out to the side, and transfer it into a grain truck...which as I have said before is mostly semi trucks and trailers now.

Bushels and Bushels of soup bits!
On this day, harvest was just on, but still in the early stages.  Everything was looking great, and everyone was happy to work until well after sun down.
 
Sunset

A view of an area with lentils and some undesired wild growth
You might think fields would get done in no time, with these big combines zooming around them.  But the funny thing about combines is....they don't really zoom.  I mean, they have the ability to move somewhat speedily relative to the large size...but the speed is dictated by a lot of factors...the thickness and height of the crop, the terrain, the moisture content...if you go too fast, you may decrease the amount in your hopper.  4 mph can be too fast.  Sometimes 3 mph is too fast.  And so, the little big combines crawl across the field in the day, beyond the sunset, and into the night.  Until they are done, or conditions say they are done.  Harvest days are long days for farmers....but they do love it!



 
There are bright lights, but it is definitely easier to combine by day than by night.  On this day, a full truck at night seemed like a good spot to end the day on.


Home time -- loved this image of the semi roaring to life.

 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Monuments of My People

You find a lot of stuff on the side of the road in Saskatchewan.  Cows.  Old machinery.  Abandoned Churches. 

 
South of Cadillac, SK
Abandoned houses.  But there is more.

All civilizations seem to create monuments, something to make them stand out from those other people down the road, or those who came before them.  Egypt has its pyramids.  Paris has it's Eiffel Tower.  London has Big Ben.  Rome its Colliseum.  As you saw a few blogs back, Medicine Hat, Alberta has it's teepee.  Out here in the prairies, we lack a bit of the population of some of those cities, so our monuments may have a little less grandeur, but they exist all the same.  It is after all the thought that counts, right?  Speaking of which, that reminds me of an episode of a prairie sitcom, Corner Gas, where the local residents are coming up with ideas for a monument of their own.  Take a second to watch this, I suspect you'll like it.



So Moose Jaw, rather obviously, has a giant moose.

l

Ponteix has a Plesiosaur named Mo.  This may not make sense until you pull over and read that an almost intact Plesiosaur was found on the site in the 60's by a local boy, Bobby St. Cyr.



And driving towards Swift Current one day I came across another strange monument -- a very large weather vane on a farm....it has a real full size helicopter mounted on top.  I am not sure what the motivating factor was here, I am certain it is a lot of work to put a helicopter on a pole like that.  This also led to a discussion around my house of whether Dad might enjoy fixing up another old tractor, which I suggested could be put on the corner by our road.  In a Corner Gas-like moment, the idea was quickly dismissed because didn't I know how hard it would be to mount a tractor on a pole?  I never mentioned a pole, nor would I encourage the impaling of a tractor on a pole, but I gave up after a few minutes realizing the two ideas were forever intertwined and therefore never coming to pass.  Hopefully I never get the impulse to make my own monument...whether it be a giant cat or a microbe statue, I am certain it would be an eyesore in any neighbourhood.


What really got me onto the topic on monuments though is this -- the strangest prairie monument on them all, the giant boat in the middle of a field south of Moose Jaw.

Yes, it's a boat.  A giant prairie perched boat.  I love this thing.

I tried every method known to get my parents to pull over when we drove past this boat in a field on the side of the road when I was a kid.  Begging, pleading, whining, bargaining, even good behaviour, but it never happened.  So, when I made plans to go to Moose Jaw with my sister, I forewarned her that I was finally stopping at the boat, come hell or high water.  So why is there a boat  in a field in Saskatchewan?  I asked that question when I was young and the answer is part of my fascination with the whole thing.  Turns out there was a man from Finland, and Tom Sukanen is the name he adopted in North America.  He was a shipbuilder in Finland, and came to the US in 1898 looking to find a better life.  He landed in Minnesota, where he married the daughter of a Finnish Immigrant farmer who had passed away, and had 3 children.  Wanting to gain land of their own, he heard of Canada offering land to homesteaders, and so packed up and walked the 600 MILES to Saskatchewan promising to return, casually asking if anyone knew his brother along the way, until he found him and got a homestead of his own nearby.  He worked the land for five years, earned the titles and amassed the sizable fortune of $9000 in 1916, and promptly walked the 600 miles back to Minnesota to escort his wife and three children back to Canada (presumably on foot again).  Oh yeah, and he had to do some time in WW1 in those 5 years as well.  When he got back to Minnesota, he found his home empty,  His wife perished in the influenza epidemic in 1916, and the children were scattered into foster care.  2 he never found.  1 he was deported from the US for trying to reclaim.  He was forced to return to Saskatchewan alone with his broken dream.  He was a smart man, a bit of an inventor and engineer as well, and so he hatched a plan to build a ship and sail back home.  He first built a rowboat, sailed it north in the shallow creeks and rivers of Saskatchewan all the way to the Hudson Bay, where he made his passage back to Finland....but once again returned to SK, presumably to make the journey again on his own ship, with his possessions and fortunes.  While the Depression raged on, he built a vessel, in 3 parts, which could be floated from it's prairie shipyard to deeper waters, assembled there, and sailed home in the open ocean.  And it looks like it would have worked too, had malicious neighbours not had him committed to the funny farm where he died soon after in despair, far too young by today's standards.  How can one not be fascinated by a true tale such as this one?  Not possible I say.

To the credit of my sister (and I am grateful for her willingness), she not only agreed to stop at the boat, but happily gave up the better part of the day roaming through the museum that is one prairie boat and an entire pioneer village.


A whole early prairie village is recreated with building, equipment, and genuine articles from many decades

In a room of sewing machines, my sister was fascinated by what looks like a transvestite pioneer seamstress.  Seriously.

A hand powered bicycle built by our shipbuilder Tom -- in fact he built all the tools in the boat

My sister peeking out of a tiny chapel built for a small congregation...two pews I think

Very pretty little church, grand for its size, and well preserved

American pickers would love it here...but it's a museum so they can't pick...a whole fire hall of fire stuff

suits from the first days to quite modern, including fire, chemical, and hazmat

And of course, we ended the trip off with a visit to the "mall".  My sister cannot resist a mall, even one featuring items from the 20's with nothing for sale